Like most Britons, I was shocked by the killings in Westminster on 22 March 2017.
The following morning I wrote a piece for the Conservative Home website, which was published the day after. You can read it below.
Mohammed Amin is Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum. He is writing in a personal capacity.
Even though we have seen many vehicle attacks on the streets of Nice, Berlin, and Jerusalem, this week’s terrorist attack in London still came as a shock. While I was in Manchester on Wednesday, I am in the area attacked virtually every week when in London, and the Palace of Westminster is the physical heart of our democracy.
Last night there was no information about the attacker’s motives, and long ago the Oklahoma City bombing taught me to avoid jumping to conclusions. Accordingly I simply made a donation to the Police Dependants’ Trust and issued a short Conservative Muslim Forum statement sharing some of the Prime Minister’s words from Downing Street.
This morning the police have stated that they believe this was violent Islamist extremism; that is the most significant terrorist threat our country faces, albeit not the only one, as the murder of Jo Cox MP showed.
I am clear what we all need to do.
All of us need to be vigilant. If we suspect that anyone, even a close family member, may be thinking of committing an act of terrorism (regardless of motivation), we must report this. The Government website tells you how.
Beyond that, our responsibilities bifurcate. People get drawn into terrorism for different reasons, depending on their backgrounds.
All of us know young people: our children, other relatives, friends, and those we encounter within organisations and groups. Younger people are more easily led into terrorism because they know less, and are less skilled in thinking about the complexities of the real world. That enables them to be easily seduced by someone offering them “the real Islam” and a guaranteed way to paradise.
Telling your child “don’t become a terrorist” is about as effective as telling them “don’t think of a pink elephant.” What matters are the specific things you teach them as they are growing up.
You can choose to feed your child the narrative that:
If you do, don’t be surprised if your child is seduced by an online recruiter for ISIS.
Conversely you can teach your children that:
By doing so, you can immunise your child against the siren call of ISIS.
ISIS promote terrorism in Europe because they want non-Muslims to react by attacking Muslims.
ISIS has a Manichean view of the world, divided between the World of Islam (good) and the World of War (occupied by evil non-Muslims who must be fought and defeated.) They want to eliminate “the grey zone”; the place where Muslims and non-Muslims live side by side in peace and harmony. ISIS want all Muslims to be expelled from Europe.
Accordingly, politicians like Geert Wilders who want to ban the Quran and who treat all Muslims as “the enemy within” are doing ISIS’s work for them.
To immunise your child against being drawn into the far-right white racism of Thomas Mair, you need to teach your children that:
What each of us can do varies, depending on available time and personal background. For example, I regularly do talks at schools for the charity Speakers for Schools. Yesterday morning I spoke in Oldham to a heavily Bangladeshi origin audience. Earlier this month in Halewood my audience was overwhelmingly white British.
My main speaking goal is advising pupils about how to make their future lives successful. However, a key side benefit is demonstrating by personal example to Muslims that they can succeed in Britain, and to non-Muslims that Muslims can be driven by a commitment to social duty.
Think about what you, personally, can do today to counter the extremist scourge.
The Conservative Home website periodically removes readers comments for housekeeping reasons. However while they are available, I recommend reading the comments below the original piece. 196 comments as of 6 April 2017.
For me, there are several key messages from the comments.
Most of those commenting see Islam in a very bad light. Given the terrorist acts committed by Muslims in Europe and North America, and even more the mass murder of Muslims by other Muslims that we have seen for so many years, it should be no surprise that many non-Muslims have a terrible perception of Islam.
Fixing this is the responsibility of Muslims.
At the same time, the people criticising Islam display tunnel vision, and are quick to forget history, even recent history. They forget the mass murder committed by atheists and Christians, such as the Holocaust, Stalin's and Mao's mass killings, or even more recent crimes such as the Srebrenica genocide.
Most of those commenting show the same kind of denial of white far-right terrorism that I regularly encounter amongst Muslims when it comes to violent Islamist extremism.
The commenters appear oblivious to the way that xenophobia encourages far-right terrorism, or that they have any responsibility to counter such views.